598

Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Holon

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Holon Pianist/composer Nik Bartsch's wondrous synthesis of intellect and funk, of lofty cerebral abstraction and urgent physical energy, is so thrilling that it may produce in the listener an urge to scramble on top of the nearest building and start yelling "hallelujah!" and "eureka!" at everyone within earshot.



Holon is the second album Bartsch has made with his band Ronin for ECM, following Stoa (ECM, 2006), and is the latest addition to an outstanding body of work previously released on his own Ronin Rhythm Records label. Holon finds a new depth of nuance in Bartsch's music, a more assured to and fro between priapic visceralism and cool melodicism than was apparent before. It's the most holistic realization yet of what Bartsch calls "zen funk" or "ritual groove" music.



Although its extreme rhythmic intensity can make other examples of the genre sound limp-wristed, Bartsch's music could also, more prosaically, be described as "post-minimalist." The key to Bartsch's new-frontier genius has been to take minimalism's layered, repetitive, mathematical structures, in which discrete but complementary melodic and rhythmic motifs are orchestrated in a sequence of subtle micro-evolutions, and add to them the primal beats of rock and funk.



On Holon, as before, Bartsch's right hand is drummer Kasper Rast. The duo have been playing together since they were each 12 years old and have developed a rare singularity. Rast's Lord-have-mercy accents, bombs, crashes and rolls have a live, in-the-moment feel to them, despite being, like everything else Ronin plays, precisely scored by Bartsch.



There are small, but significant, changes to Ronin's instrumentation here. Bartsch plays acoustic piano only, dropping the Fender Rhodes and harnessing the acoustic instrument's overtones. Sha, who played clarinets exclusively on Stoa, is also featured on the alto saxophone, using the more raucous horn to wild, quasi-Moorish effect on "Modul 45."



In his liner notes, Bartsch quotes composer Morton Feldman's observation, "I always leave the concert hall when I start tapping my foot." On Holon, as on his previous discs, Bartsch demonstrates that cerebral focus and physical abandon are not necessarily incompatible. What a glorious revelation, what glorious music!


Track Listing: Modul 42; Modul 41_17; Modul 39_8; Modul 46; Modul 45; Modul 44.

Personnel: Nik B

Title: Holon | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: ECM Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Such A Sky CD/LP/Track Review Such A Sky
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31 CD/LP/Track Review Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 25, 2017
Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "Noumenon" CD/LP/Track Review Noumenon
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 26, 2016
Read "Here on Earth" CD/LP/Track Review Here on Earth
by Doug Collette
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "Heart Of Gold: Live In Aarhus" CD/LP/Track Review Heart Of Gold: Live In Aarhus
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 19, 2016
Read "Avant Funk" CD/LP/Track Review Avant Funk
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 26, 2016
Read "Alma Matters" CD/LP/Track Review Alma Matters
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 10, 2017
Read "Matador 4" CD/LP/Track Review Matador 4
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 31, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.